Britain has just experienced its wettest June since records began – and the Met Office suggests that man-made climate change could be to blame.
Global warming has caused more water to evaporate, resulting in bigger clouds and increasingly heavier rainfalls, Dr Peter Stott, Head of Climate Monitoring and Attribution at the Met Office Hadley Centre told The Daily Telegraph.
What’s more, we may look back on the flood chaos that Britain received this summer as fairly tame events, because our rainfalls could become even more extreme in the future.
Shop workers during flash flooding in the Staffordshire village of Penkridge
Dr Stott told The Daily Telegraph: “There has been a four per cent increase in moisture over the oceans since the 1970s. Therefore there is potential for periods of heavy rain to be more extreme.”
This is, of course, grim news. Although it may be greeted by makers of “mood-boosting” pills, which have been selling like hot cakes as a result of the summer wash-out.
The Met Office has contributed to a new report by research institutions around the world that suggests man-made climate change is making Britain’s weather more extreme in other ways, too.
Called Explaining Extreme Events of 2011 from a Climate Perspective, it includes so-called “climate attribution studies”, looking at key weather events shortly after they have happened.
Dr Stott, one of the editors of the report, explained that it looked at how climate change altered the odds of extreme weather occurring.
One of them is extreme heat, and the report draws a link between global warming and recent warm weather periods in the UK.
November 2011, for instance, was the second warmest in the Central England temperature record dating back to 1659. This extreme warm average temperature is 60 times more likely to have occurred than in the 1960s, the Met report said.
It also claimed that extreme heat is now more likely to hit other parts of the world, too.
In 2011, Texas had its hottest and driest summer in records dating back to 1895.
The study argued that while the heat wave was associated with La Nina conditions in the Pacific Ocean, the heat wave was 20 times more likely in such conditions than it would have been only 50 years ago.
A young boy in Houston, Texas, tries to cool off during last year's heatwave
Dr Kate Willett, a Met Office Climate Monitoring and Attribution scientist and lead editor of the Global Climate chapter of the State of the Climate report, said: "We are in the golden age of satellite technology - we can see our planet changing in more detail than ever before.
"As a result, we see evidence far beyond changing temperatures and have observed intricate links in our climate system - these changes can differ radically from region to region, and impact our daily lives in many different ways."